THE STORY OF ABOVE AVERAGE MAN
The camera opens on Above Average Man standing outside of the UXCW arena, at one point the highest ranked federation on the face of the earth. It, as any other federation Above Average Man has ever wrestled in, is now shut down. Staring at the large sign with boards crossed over it, Above Average Man stands quietly in the night. A muggy July wind blows by, unsettling Above Average Man's hair. The scar down the back of his neck almost glows in the moonlight. His Titan Bahadur t-shirt reflects the stars and his gray cargo pants hang over his steel toed boots and meld into the ground. The frayed ends of the tall uncut grass fans back and forth with the rising and falling of each breeze. Above Average Man sticks his hands deep in his pockets, hanging his head in shame. If there was ever a secret Above Average Man had been hiding, this was it. Above Average Man steps between the two large pillars supporting the sign, leaning against the one on the left and placing a foot on the right. Above Average Man runs a hand back through his hair, gathering his thoughts. Being here is tough, but he knows that it is just another part of life. Nothing stays hidden forever. Above Average Man takes a deep breath, licking his lips as if he has something to say. Then he falls silent. He breaths sharply, exhaling through his nose, and tries to find a way to brooch this subject. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, it becomes very apparent that there is no way to say this and keep his dignity. The truth is going to come out. Above Average Man looks up to the sky, staring at the familiar stars. He stops in thought again, deciding that small talk would be easier than dropping the bombshell.
Above Average Man: Eldar, so you think hard work and perserverance isn't the right kind of Extreme. You say that dedication and a refusal to quit won't carry me to victory. You think that a willingness to sacrifice everything for one match is stupid. Well, those are the traits that carried me this far. And that is exactly what I need to do to win. You see, my kind of Extreme is putting up with everything. And if you think it takes a tough man to hit someone with a chair, you're dead wrong. That doesn't take someone Extreme; that just takes someone who either can't or won't get the job done on their own. And when we walk into this match, my type of Extreme will be my best weapon, while your would only cost you the match. Every match I've ever won, I've done it with my own two hands. We all have pride; yes, even me. And I pride myself on doing everything alone. I don't need any help to fight. Win or loss, I earned each of my matches. So go ahead and hit me with a car or something. That'll prove exactly what type of a man you are. An extreme man gets an object to hit a superior opponent? Maybe an extreme coward. Eldar, you just can't comprehend what I'm saying. I guess it's going to take getting into the ring with me, the man willing to sacrifice everything, for you to finally understand. Extreme is when the word can't vanishes from your vocabulary. Extreme is when you sit in a figure four for thirty two minutes, blowing out your knee, because you refuse to give up. Extreme is when you topple through a table and break your neck, only to crawl to the ring the next night and face three other men, just because you said you'd be there. Extreme isn't something you hold in your hands; it's something you hold in your soul. It's that part of you that makes the match more important than the man. It's what keeps you going when doctors and referees and even your loved ones say quit. It's why you get up and fight more, even when you know you're beaten. Eldar, that's what it means to be Extreme. Specialty matches and foreign objects don't make you any better of a wrestler. There's a certain something inside of you, a drive, a desire. Something that pushes you past what your body should do. Call it adrenalin. Call it God. Call it, heaven forbid, "heart". But that's what separates the men who lives for wrestling from the men who see this as just a job. Now you can call it stupid for me to keep on going, dispite what my body goes through, but I know that's what I have to do. And if you won't do the same, then you don't want this nearly as bad as you claim you do. You think my willingness to sacrifice is stupid, but that's carried me just as far as you. And if it works, it can't be that dumb. So when I keep going, and our match drags on hour after grueling hour, are you just going to give it up? When you reach the point you feel like you can't take any more, I can't imagine not getting back up. Without that mentality, how can you call yourself Extreme? Either you're feel like I do, like you say it's so stupid to feel, or you just don't have it in you. Either way, right now you're wrong. But then again, most of your life is an act, isn't it?
Above Average Man walks along the front of the arena, the grass parting in a trampled path left in his wake. Droplets of dew gather at the base of his pantlegs, and over the toes of his boots. Stepping out of the grass, Above Average Man immerges in the rear parking lot behind the arena, where the wrestlers used to park. He slides down a steep incline, stumbling out onto the pavement. Above Average Man scans over the lot, in perfect silence and inky blackness. Only the Horde emblem on the back of his shirt shines out in the night. Above Average Man circles around, looking up at the towering empty building. He sighs, slouching his shoulders forward and staring down at his boots.
Above Average Man: So you're pretty tough, Eldar. You've already admitted how full of it you were with your "I beat a hundred twenty-six men" claims. It's beginning to dawn to you how insignificant you really are. I can see it. Every time you speak... well, the few times you bother to think about me rather then the five other men you're worrying about, you admit to yet another claim where I was right and you were wrong. First, you caved in admitting that you weren't invincable. Then you realized how little you've really done in this tournament. I make alot of sense, and that scares you. I've upset the delicate balance of your fragile little world, showing you that all your fame really means nothing. Now all you can do is try to be tough. Try and act bad and scare me. Fighting handicapped matches? That's nothing. I've never been one to brag up my accomplishments, so I don't like sharing things like this. I'd rather keep the low profile and let you underestimate me, but since you insist that you're the only one who's ever done anything tough, I'll let you in on the first secret of my past. The secret that would shatter my way of fighting, forcing the world to acknowledge my skill. No, this isn't something I'm ashamed of. But throwing out past achievements never accomplishes anything but putting a target on your back. Because of things like that, I don't usually like to brag. But for you, Eldar, I'll make an exception.
Above Average Man drops the gym bag he's been carrying for the past week on the ground before his feet. He kneels down slowly, his knee popping as he bends forward. He parts the flaps, the zipper long since broken, and takes out a small black package. Unrolling a pair of black tights with the words "No Gimmicks" printing across the behind, he produces the precious treasure they guard. A title belt. An OWF Stables Title belt. Then a second. Then a third. All three of the OWF Stables Title belts rest before him as he kneels in this parking lot in the inky blackness of night. Their buckles have long since faded and lost their luster, but they still glow with memories. And really, that is what's important.
Above Average Man: A handicapped match against two men from the FWF makes you great? That makes you Extreme? Let me weave a bit of a tale. It involves myself being part of the greatest stable of all time, The New Four Horsemen. Look at the World E-Fed Hall of Fame. You'll find us there. Not me, but our stable. We won these stables titles. Myself, Chaimber, and Azreal. We beat The Kremlin, Kozmo, and Vilkata. I believe you'll see all three of their names on the World E-fed Hall of Fame, as well as the Soldiers of Eternity that they represented. I beat some of the greatest in the world to earn this first belt. I beat people who have that infamous state of being "etched in E-fed history" like you so desire. But that didn't earn me any credit. After all, I was just a rookie riding on the coattails of the greatest. That's not something I feel was any special accomplishment. It's just one belt. But why then do I hold all three of these titles. Well, Azreal vanished soon after the match. Then Chaimber disappeared as well, both leaving me out in the cold. I don't blame them; I don't exactly make the best conversation. But I was alone, and holding three title belts. And that's when a World E-Fed Hall of Fame stable, Da Kliq, sent it's three World E-fed Hall of Famers into a three on one against me to claim these titles. "Da Champ" PlaYa, "The Loose Cannon" Bryan Tann, and Silkk "The Shocker". Three on one. Three World E-fed Hall of Famers on one. There was no disqualification. There was no help for me. I walked into that match alone. I refused to stay down. I walked out with all three of my titles held high. I beat them. Fighting a handicapped match against two nobodies doesn't earn you my respect. To me, that's you just trying once more to look tough. Give me men with credentials. Give me men who have proved themselves time and time again. Beat them, and that will count for something. But your empty claims scare me no more than your gratuitous swearing. It might make you seem tough to the rest of the world, but I see right through your ruse. You say these things so the world will tell you how good you are, because you doubt your own abilities. If you can't see it, if people aren't telling you how great you are, then you can't feel good. I've never asked anyone for even a shread of respect, and only Titan Bahadur has given that of his own volition, but that isn't what carries me through match after match. I don't care what people think of me. I know the truth. That's why, dispite the snickers at my name and the bad jokes I hear day in and day out, I can come to the ring confident in my abilities. I've never backed down from anything, dispite the odds. And even though you've proven alot in this tournament, I've definately fought better men, and I've won. People I've lost to in the past? Try person. One man has known the thrill of holding down my shoulders. And he had to break my neck before I didn't get back up. We fought for three hours before Chris beat me the first time. The only man who's beaten me, and yes he did it twice, was Chris Barnes. Alien. My brother. Now Eldar, do you see why you don't scare me quite so easily. Quite frankly, I've been standing against the greatest, yet hanging in the shadows for a long time. I've done more than most, and I still get less credit. And I don't think that winning this tournament is going to change that. I'm never going to be treated with that kind of respect. I'm never going to get credit for what I've done. But really, who's thoughts matter except my own? You can say whatever you want about me. I know what's true won't hurt me, and what won't bother me. I'm here for a reason. I earned this. I deserve this.
Above Average Man sets the three OWF Stables Title belts gingerly in the gym bag, keeping the black set of tights out, clenched tightly in his right hand. He stands up, his knees popping once more, and again shoulders the gym bag, stepping up to the arena door. Above Average Man stands, one hand placed on either door and slowly forces them open. With a groan that would scare the dead, they move. Above Average Man steps inside, the blackness of night only getting darker within this long since abandon arena. Slowly, Above Average Man walks down the hall, counting out the rooms of the superstars. A thick layer of dust covers each door, as this place has been abandon nearly a full year. Above Average Man reaches the end of the hall where two doors stand out, larger and more prestigous looking than any others. He places his hand on the first one, brushing away a streak of dust with a fail swoop and clearing way for the golden star with a name etched within it. Jaxxx. Walking a few feet to the left, Above Average Man reaches the second door, placing his hand on it and clearing the star with a sweep of dust. It reads Bryan Barnes. Above Average Man shakes his head, sitting down between these two doors, staring down the hall at the glowing doorway to the outside. He yearned to leave this place, forgetting the past, but some things needed said. Things that had stayed hidded for far too long. Above Average Man looks up at the camera, his voice trembling.
Above Average Man: Eldar, I'm not the delusional one. I don't have to hide my life, sugarcoating it to impress the fans. Everyone sees what I do from a day to day basis, and it's far from glamorous. No, if there's one thing I'm not doing, it's living a life to impress people. That would be something that, say, a man who cares about fame and status would do. I am just a man who was humbled so nearly a year ago. I'm glad it happened, as you now know the success I've seen since then, but it is still something I'd rather not relive. But still, you made some drastic claims towards me. Just because I use an assumed name for my ring persona, you think I am not who I claim to be. What you see is what you get. Above Average Man and Bryan Barnes are one and the same. I'm not Above Average Man because I chose to be. I'm Above Average Man because I have to be. In late July of last year, I made my first move into professional wrestling. At the age of eighteen and as a drop out, I had many dillusions about what this buisness would be. I expected lear jets and limosenes. I saw Armani suits and beautiful women. Gold belts and cheering fans. But that's the ignorance of youth for you. I didn't think I needed anything special to make it to the top. In fact, I made a point of not falling into that stereotype of wrestler that catered to popular opinions. When Hardcore became popular, Hardcore I was not. I didn't want to be like everyone else. I wanted to be differant. I was "No Gimmicks" Bryan Barnes. I thought much like you, that hiding behind a ring name was stupid. I was proud of who I was. I came to the ring. I won matches. I became a main eventer, and I had quite the cocky attitude myself. Yes, I once had an ego. I was once like you. And it cost me. I decided that I wanted to be the World Heavyweight Champion. I wanted that title. I wanted [Above Average Man guestures over his shoulder towards the opposite door labeled Jaxxx] his title. And I demanded the shot. Yes, I had that same type of confidence you talk of. I "knew" I could beat him. So much so that I basically signed away my soul to get the shot. I agreed that if I didn't beat him, he would be able to make every career decision for me from that point on. He didn't beat me. I had him. He knew it too. He was so close to tasting defeat, and that was something he refused to do. So he walked away. I would accept that. I followed him. I dragged him back to the ring, wanting to beat him. Wanting to hold that title belt. And my shortsightedness, my impulsiveness, got us both counted out. I didn't beat him. And that was the stupidest mistake I made in my entire career. Jaxxx decided that it would be fun to make me into his sidekick, the obediant lapdog. And since I so hated the stupid gimmicks of everyone else, he saddled me with the worst one I could ever think of. The one that would haunt me forever. The name that would forever rob me of respect, and would ensure that I never got the credit I deserve. I became "C+: The Above Average Man". Man I hated him. When he left the UXCW, he made me a deal. I could go on my own way, and do whatever I wanted again. But I had to always carry that name, as a humilating mark of defeat. He taught me quite the lesson. Sometimes we make promises that we can't keep. You guaruntee you'll beat me? Well, how good is that guaruntee? When you won't even leave the FWF for a week to concentrate on our match, and instead you concern yourself with the millions of other little men out there, I know exactly how much you care about this match. And quite frankly, it's not enough. I live this life because I have no other choice. I stay on the streets because I lack another place to go. I wrestle because it's the only thing I can do. And I wear the name Above Average Man because it's something that's been forced upon me. You do what you have to to win. And even if my name were Stupidty Man, I'd still have the exact same abilities. You want to talk about touching a nerve; that's exactly what you did when you started talking about gimmicks. I didn't choose this gimmick to get attention or to make people laugh. I don't like the way I get treated. But I put up with it. It's just another thing I have to do to claw my way to the top. And you, Eldar, have no clue what you're up against. You're poking a stick into a dark doghouse. And not only is there a Dobermann inside, but it's rabid and hungry. I've got more at stake in this match than I ever had before. My entire life has been building to this point. I know what it's like to have infinite success just within my grasp, and then have everything taken away from me. And I refuse to have it happen again. I will not lose! Now I guess that's both of us making that claim, so somebody's lieing. And I want this a hell of alot more than you do. Look at everything I've done, everything I've been through, and try and say I haven't paid my dues. I earned this. I've stood through things that should have made me crumble. I am truely The Last Man Standing! And you, Eldar, are only a technicality.
The sod has spoken.
Above Average Man's eyes are narrowed to nearly slits of hatred. He stands up, bracing himself against the wall for a moment while his knee pops once more. Slowly, he pads down the hallway towards the exit, each of his footsteps echoing a thousand times. Shoving the waistband of the black tights into his side pocket on his cargo pants, the "No Gimmicks" logo hands loosely behind him, bobbing back and forth which each step of his power walk. Above Average Man keeps his gaze focused solely ahead, blocking out his surroundings and the flood of terrible memories from this place. Pausing at the door, he placing one hand on the frame and speaks forward, not turning around to face the camera.
Above Average Man: If you don't like the name, just call me Bryan. I don't really care. But I want your respect. All I ask of you, is that come Sunday you get in the ring. I'll take care of everything else. This is my moment. It's my fucking turn! And I'll be damned if you, or anyone else, will stop me.
Above Average Man's voice
comes out through clenched teeth and trails off into the wind,
disappearing into the night. His sillouette remains, leaning
against the doorframe of the place that hurt him most. The camera
slowly pulls back, receeding more and more into the darkness, as
blackness envelopes the hall, the parking lot, and Above Average
Man. His body trembles with hate as the camera steps back and
back, further into the shadows. Fade to black.
OFF YOUR GAME
The camera opens on the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC. The gigantic stone monument towers above everything. Abraham Lincoln's image is forever carved into the stone, looking out through the pillars of the memorial building and across the large park, eventually on to Veteran's National Cemetary where a gentle rain is falling. Lincoln stares out, never moving his eyes from their eternal fixation. Watching the souls that have died for his dream. Small groups of tourists stand at scattered places throughout the room, flashing pictures and talking amoungst themselves. No locals though. The tourists each keep to their own little group, careful not to have any contact with any of the strangers. On one side, there bares Lincoln's Geddisburg Address etched into the wall. A young looking couple stands before it, the man reading it out loud. On the opposite wall, there is nothing. Above Average Man stands there, leaning in the corner. His back is turned to the statue as he tries to avoid the prying eyes of the people. He doesn't fit in, not being the wealthy tourist paying several hundred dollars to visit this great monument, along with others. Instead, he is simply a vagrant, sheltering himself from the rain. The Horde emblem on the back of his shirt shimmers over with the first strike of lightning. He speaks into the corner, his voice nearly a whisper. Almost as if he is afraid to disface the sollemness of this sacred place.
Above Average Man: Do I upset you, Eldar? You seem angry with me for sharing the lessons life has taught me. While you sit in your fancy apartment with your expensive art and designer sofa, having everything your heart desires, I sit here, focused on the only thing I want. I'm not trying to impress you as some great philosopher; I really don't care what you think of me. You're just another man. And I'm just being honest. I tell the world the truth, and it just upsets people. You've seen how many times you've conceded to my claims, acknowledging your own impulsiveness. Too often as of late you've had to face reality that you've been wrong. I guess that must make you mad. All you can think is insults. While I study you as a person, pointing out your shortcomings, all you can think to do is make fun of my name. A name that I never even wanted. You're much like the kid, that when shown how blatantly stupid he is, all he can say is "I know you are but what am I." This isn't about petty namecalling, because what you think or say really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter to me, because you put no thought behind your words, fully earning yourself that Big Mouth Title you so often brag about. And it doesn't matter to the world watching the Last Man Standing tournament, because half of it is over differant people, differant matches, and differant places. If that isn't the mark of a lack of focus, I don't know what is. This is the most important match in my career. This one's for all the marbles. I'd give up anything to win it. But you, you won't even step back out of your FWF limelight for two days to concentrate on the biggest match you will ever have. You want this so bad? Well you certainly aren't paying your dues. Anything worth having requires a sacrifice. And that's not something you're willing to do. You want it all. You believe you can have it all. Maybe you can. Ambition is a powerful tool. But intensity and desire will overcome it every time. No Eldar, I don't think you've paid your dues at all. Five other men you worry about, and you question my training? My training is nearly all mental. I'm one hundred seventy pounds. I'm not going to outmuscle you. I win by thinking. And you can criticize all you want, but it's worked. It's worked for a long time, and it will continue to work. Because no one knows how to deal with someone like me. I'm differant. And that throws you off your game plan. That's why all you can think to do is make fun of my name. You have nothing else. When we step into the ring, I will be ready for Eldar Markovitch. And you will be "ready" for just one of six men that you divide your attention between. It's basic first grade math. Even if you're working twice as hard as me, you've divided your efforts six ways. That makes me far more prepared. Your complete lack of dedication to the tournament, and your lack of focus on myself, will be your downfall. Oh, but wait. I've got a stupid name. I guess that will cost me the match. Your logic truely baffles me.
Above Average Man turns around, facing the statue of Lincoln. He sits down on the cold, marble floor, staring up to meet Lincoln's gaze. Lincoln stares onwards, out towards the cemetary. Above Average Man drops his gaze back to the floor level, panning over the other visitors. Most are staring at him, but turn the heads away when he looks. Above Average Man can tell what they think of him, but he is not offended. Thunder rumbles in the distance, almost symbolic of the storm on the horizon. Above Average Man looks back up, staring at the giant stone man with a reverant awe. The gentle patter of rain is heard on the steps outside as the storm reaches the monument. Above Average Man sits quietly in thought. Running his index finger down his jawline and over the stubble on his chin, he breaks the uncomfortable silence by unfolding yet another metaphor.
Above Average Man: Lincoln was a man with a purpose. He had a goal. He knew what he wanted, and he knew how to go about getting it. He sacrificed alot to abolish slavery in the United States, fully knowing that he couldn't make that decree until many thousand Americans had died and it was seen as a Union victory. Sacrifice and focus will get you far. And those things earned this man a place in history. He will never be forgotten. But you're not like that. You want to reach the prize without walking the path to get there. You don't deserve that eternal remembrance. Petty names and gratuitous swearing earned you your Big Mouth Title, but the title Last Man Standing takes a differant type of name. One who backs up his claims. I showed you my credentials. What I did "rotting away in the indy feds" while beating World E-fed Hall of Famers one after another. You don't make those same claims. Just being part of the FWF is good enough for you. You stand amidst a high level of competition, and that is supposed to intimidate me. But you haven't shown me any reason why you're anything more than a punk who picks his shots and bullies midcarders. You're far too used to the cakewalk match, where you come to the ring knowing you have it won. I don't think you know how to do anything else. And now that you're getting in the ring with the only other man who can last through the same tournament you just did, even still you don't take me seriously. That's one of your biggest weaknesses. You take everything for face value. The little man from the streets can't win because he's a little man from the streets. I've you've been watching, I've been winning for a long time now. You claims that I got here by luck hold no water. And your refusal to acknowledge my talent just serves to your detriment. Saying I suck won't make me any worse in the ring, but it will make you alot less prepared. I've beaten seventeen World E-Fed Hall of Famers. I don't care what stupid gimmick I get saddled with, I've got talent that can't be denied. Or I guess it can, after all, that's what you've done. You've denied that I had the talent to win. But Eldar, your namecalling isn't going to upset me. In fact, I'm glad you're doing it. You're going about everything in the wrong way. And I'll be laughing when it blows up in your face.
The sod has spoken.
Above Average Man stands, turning to leave, but a large man in a GCW shirt blocks his path. His black hair is tied back in a ponytail and he wears a battered leather belt labeled King Of The Mountain. He grabs Above Average Man by the scruff of the shirt, pulling him off to the side. As the camera pans around them, the serpentine scar can be seen running from his eyebrow to chin. Above Average Man doesn't look frightened as this near seven footer keeps him pinned against the wall of the Lincoln Memorial, a crowd now gathering around them. The man forces his forearm back over Above Average Man's throat, beginning to cut off his breath. Above Average Man keeps a calm look on his face as he chokes out a greeting.
Above Average Man: Hey Viper, what's up?
Viper drops Above Average Man to the ground, kicking him back into the corner. Above Average Man climbs to his feet, bracing himself against the wall as the crowd edges in. Breathing heavily, Above Average Man steps alongside Viper and the two walk out into the rain, sitting down on the top step. The complete downpour seems centered on them as it beats mercilessly away at their bodies, leaving them soaked after only a matter of moments. Viper looks down, noticing the "No Gimmicks" tights Above Average Man is wearing in place of his traditional gray cargo pants. Viper shakes his head, knowing all to well what it's like to go through an identity crisis. Above Average Man droops his head, his black hair hanging limply in front of his face as it plasters against his cheeks and forehead with the constant pounding of the rain.
Viper: Are you real, man?
Above Average Man: Yeah. I'm real. I've got it together.
Viper: Cause if you're not, man, you're as good as dead. We've all got alot riding on you. You're not just Above Average Man this time. You're walking to that ring as the entirity of GCW. We need you to win this thing. You can do it, right?
Above Average Man: I can do it.
Above Average Man pushes his hair back, matting it on top of his head. Viper looks at Above Average Man, who stares off into the storm, focused on a single point. A break in the clouds. Above Average Man sees it, and he never lets his vision deviate. Viper shakes his head, as if something heavy was weighing on his heart. He turns to Above Average Man, looking at him with all seriousness.
Viper: You need to talk to Jenny, man. You can't leave her waiting like this. It's been three weeks. She just stares out the window, watching for you to show up again. You've been her shoulder to cry on for a long time. She's in trouble. She needs you. She wants you back.
Above Average Man stares onwards through a moment of silence, keeping his focus on the break in the clouds. A beam of sunlight shines through it, falling down upon a spot in Veteran's National Cemetary. Above Average Man's gaze never faulters as he speaks to Viper, never turning to face his friend.
Above Average Man: Adam, you know I can't do that. Just give me two more days. That's all I ask for. This tournament is all about focus. If I let my attentions get divided, I'd be as stupid as Eldar. No one in my life matters right now except Eldar Markovitch. Nothing matters in the future except a match that I have this Sunday. Everything hinges on that. Everything I am. Everything I ever hope to be. I'm keeping my focus at all costs. You know me, Adam, I've never been afraid to sacrifice. Focus is what brought us to the top of GCW, and focus is what will make me the Last Man Standing. Remember what you had to do to become King Of The Mountain? You climbed the freaking Alps to keep your focus. You sacrificed your spot in this very tournament to earn that belt you've got there. If anyone understands me, you do. I've got to do this. I've got to be the Last Man Standing. I am The Last Man Standing.
Viper sits quietly for a moment, deep in thought himself. He braces his hands on his knees, standing up with a grunt, and takes a few steps down the enormous flight of marble stairs. He pauses, turning back to face Above Average Man eye to eye. Above Average Man looks right through him, still fixed on the break in the clouds. Viper shakes his head in disgust.
Viper: Do you remember Kristen? I said I was willing to sacrifice everything to become King Of The Mountain. I climbed the Alps. I was gone for a week. Just one week. And I came back to a letter. Wrestling's not just the most important thing in our lives; it's the only thing. And when we choose not to have anything but wrestling, when we live for the ring, it has a price. A price that we pay before we realize how much "everything" really is. That was just in one week. Think about it. You should be with her. This tournament isn't going to be by your side four days from now, let alone four years from now. Please, Bryan, keep things in perspective.
Above Average Man sits in complete silence for several moments, thinking the same thoughts over and over again. Eldar Markovitch. Eldar Markovitch. Above Average Man breaks his gaze from the sky, looking Viper squarely in the eyes. Viper almost seems to shrink back with the sight of the fire in Above Average Man's soul. Above Average Man speaks coldly, almost as if devoid of any feelings at all.
Above Average Man: I don't care. All that matters is this match. I don't have time for anything else. I won't let myself get distracted. I won't let Eldar win. I won't let myself fail. Not after all I've been through to prove I'm not a failure. Eldar can rejoice in his ego about being the Second place winner, but I will be the Last Man Standing. There can be no other way. I'll win this, or die trying.
Viper turns and walks down the steps, leaving Above Average Man sitting quietly in the rain. Viper pads down to the sidewalk, water dripping from the heels of his boots with each lifting of his feet. The thunder rumbles again, this time much closer, as Above Average Man sits in the thick of the storm. Viper speaks to himself more than anyone, barely whispering as his voice trails off into the wind.
Viper: You're making a mistake.
Fade to black.
STICKS AND STONES, MAN, STICKS AND STONES
The camera opens on the bad side of Baltimore. Large factory stule buildings tower over everything, choughing out a thick black blanket of smoke which chokes out the sun. The heat is overwhelming, hazing the road with distortations. A dull clank of metal against metal strikes every third second, and as the camera closes through the streets, now surrounded by such buildings, the sound is almost deafening. A certain look of grunge covers the city, at least this side, with a fine polish of age. Nothing looks new any more. Everything looks like it's been through hell. And Above Average Man fits right in. He marches along the sidewalk, his gazed fixed ahead. The smoke in the air makes him cough for a moment. He plunges one hand into the side pocket of his cargo pants and pulls out his pack of Doral cigarettes. Above Average Man sparks it up, breathing deep it's deadly fumes. Then he coughs again. He trudges on, holding the cigarette, cherry-side down, in his left hand. The buildings continue to roll by as he crosses through this living interpretation of hell. Oddly enough, no street thugs or gang members roam the streets. It's only noon. They are still asleep, after long nights of drugging and whoring. Above Average Man is somewhat relieved at their absense, but not overly excited. Today is the day when his life comes to it's pinacle. Today, he becomes a whole. And nothing should distract him from the task at hand. Unlike Eldar Markovitch, who still concentrates on half a dozen wrestlers, Above Average Man's thoughts rest in only one place. Eldar. Above Average Man pauses at a chain link fence marking off a parking lot for the local steel mill, leaning against it for just a moment and trying to enjoy the last of his cigarette. Even his addiction's cravings seem only hollowly filled. He has only one desire left, the one that will fulfill his existance. Becoming the Last Man Standing.
Above Average Man: So this is what it comes down to. In less than twenty-four hours, Eldar, we mix it up. I came to this tournament with a purpose. I knew my goal. I focused on it, giving everything I have to give in order to win. I scratched and clawed my way to the top, getting put down the whole way. Second to Last Man Standing isn't good enough. People think I'm a fluke. Eldar still insists that luck brought me to this final match, and that I'll be no competition for him. He says that I can't beat him. And if you'll remember back four weeks ago, the first rule of C Plus: Anyone you say can't win, can. Underestimating an opponent is the worst thing you can do. When I see Eldar, I see a man who worked nearly as hard as I did in this tournament. I see a man who's accomplished alot in the ring, and will continue to do more and more. I see an opponent who, dispite how I disagree with the majority of what he says, has to be regarded as a powerful opponent. This match will be one for the ages. Eldar's the favorite to win this match, at least in the spectators' eyes. But the spectators don't see the whole story. They see a man who glows with confidence and another who feeds off doubt. But that's just the surface. I go alot deeper. The entire world, including Eldar Markovitch, refuses to realize that. He just sees the obvious, making his assumptions based on that. He takes everything for face value and, that too, will cost him. My name doesn't demand respect from you, Eldar? Well, I believe William Shakespeare put it best. That which we call a rose, by any other name, would still have thorns which are going to come back and bite you. My name doesn't have to command your respect. My in-ring abilities do. It isn't my name that you'll be climbing in the ring with, and that's all you seem to think about. The only man who's been able to beat me, and yes, he did it twice, was my very own brother. Chris Barnes. Alien. That happened because he knows me. He knows inside my head. He knows how I my mind works. He knows what I'll do in the ring. That kind of knowledge is the greatest weopon anyone can have. But you, Eldar, don't know any of that stuff. All you know is that I've got a stupid name, and that you say you're better than me. Sticks and stones, man. Sticks and stones. If you want to turn this into an arguement of four-year olds, just throwing around insults with no thought involved, I could do that. But I choose not to. You say I'm stupid. You say I suck. You say I only win by luck. Well, Eldar, I'm not going to argue all day with you on those, because I really don't care what you think. Actually, I'd prefer you still think that way. Being underestimated is a situation I thrive off of. But, just so you know, I've graduated high school at seventeen as class Salutatorian. I went to University of Maine for Accounting on a full ride accidemic scholarship. I pulled a three point eight GPA for one full semester, before I ran into some problems at home and decided that I could no longer see my parents. I've got an IQ of a hundred and fourty; I've been tested. Well, at least I did before I hit the bottle so hard. Maybe you're right. Maybe I am stupid. But I think that's just one more way that you refuse to look past the surface. You take things for face value way too often. And within one short day, I'm going to show you the error of your ways. You can't beat me. I've watched your every move. Hung on your every breath. I see things inside of you, that you only grudgingly admit. And all you can do is make fun of my name. Like I said, sticks and stones, man. Sticks and stones.
Above Average Man takes a final drag, sucking the last of the tabacco out of the filter and breathing deep while the filter grows with the final heat. The heat of the last drag that burns your fingers and parches your lips. He pauses for a moment, casting the filter underfoot and crushing it with his heel. Then he exhales slowly, watching his cloud of smoke rise up and merge with the blanket overhead. His cigarette smoke actually looks like fresh air when compared to the thick black sludge that passes for air in this town. He looks back down the street and turns from the fencing, walking onward towards the arena. Across the street, a white Chevy Corsica with a black hood pulls up. Two nineteen year old men climb out of the front, the driver climbing through his window and spilling out into the street. They wear blue jeans and yellow t-shirts. They step up to a pop machine, tipping it forward and listening for the dull thunk of their stolen prize. Thunk. Thunk. A Sunkist Orange soda. A Mug Root Beer. Above Average Man watches on at their stupidity as they climb back into the car. They each glance at him for a moment, then they rev the cars engine and take off down the street, making an attempt to peel their tires which fails miserably. Above Average Man turns away, walking onwards. Everything's so close he can taste it, dispite how far the arena is still. He's come so far. It's all within reach. Above Average Man marches on.
Above Average Man: Then there's the Extreme factor. I guess that Eldar must think he's some sort of a genius because he pointed out a fact. Extreme isn't just giving out a beating; it's also taking one. Oh, wait. That's what I've been saying all along. Funny how he twists it to make it sound like he's so incredable. Well, you come to the ring with your type, and I'll come with mine. But what I see is that mine doesn't get me disqualified. And in only three days, I've worked so far under your skin that you say you hate me. Just watch that temper of yours. It'll get you in trouble. Nobody wants to go through a huge tournament like this, only to see the final match end in a disqualification. So I guess you're leaving your version of Extreme in the locker room, and coming out with only your base skills. And all those specialty matches you say you're so good at, that won't mean jack. You've got to reduce yourself to the plan, boring one fall match. You know, the one's that I thrive on. The one's that you say you don't like to waste your time with. So it looks like the past eleven months are going to amount to alot. I've even got the experience edge walking into this match. I see dozens of ways that I have you outdone for this match. And still, you say I'm the underdog. Just another name. Sticks and stones, really. Sticks and stones. What you call me, what you think of my skills, isn't going to change the way I wrestle. So talk down my skills all you want. You've convinced most of the world I suck. You may have even convinced yourself. But you've got a long way to go before you can convince me. And when it comes to opinions of myself, mine's the only one that matters.
A loud sound, almost like a fog horn, blares out, echoing down the streets. Above Average Man freezes, not startled but quite deafened. A rush of wind blows against him, unsettling his Titan Bahadur t-shirt and kicking dust up over his black "No Gimmicks" tights as a large semi rolls by, blasting it's horn at the vagrant. The black of his shirt and tights speckles with brown and tan from the dust and mud thrown into the air. Above Average Man never glances down, ignoring what is happening. He only marches onwards to the arena. The driver leans out the window, giving him the finger for no apparent reason, and screaming out obscenities. Above Average Man shakes his head in disappointment.
Above Average Man: I thought we'd got over that at the turn of the third grade, swearing to sound tough. I mean, it's commercial. Everyone swears, it's no big deal. Yet certain people still think that shouting out this and that and something else makes them sound tough. And Eldar's worse about it than anyone I've ever fought. I thought Wayne Jeffries had a language problem, but Eldar had to scream out the F-word nineteen times last time he spoke. Parents, when Markovitch speaks, cover your children's ears. He's trying to sound like a big man. Trying to impress us with his extensive vocabulary. Guess what, Eldar. I can swear too. Anyone can. You're not special. Then again, I can control my language as well, which is something you really can't do. There's that temper of yours again. Naturely extreme style, likes foreign objects, and can't control his temper. Could you put this win any more in the bag? Why don't I just carry a chair to ringside and give you a free hit, that way we can save ourselves the long drawn out match. Eldar, you've still got that inferiority complex. You think words count for it all. Just like the namecalling, swearing up a storm isn't going to change things in the ring. If you'd put some thought behind your words, you'd be a very deadly combination. But big, strong and dumb isn't something I'm afraid of. And really, all the swearing comes down to is another rambling of your empty words. You've got nothing to back anything up. Sticks and stones, man. Get the picture. It doesn't take a tough man to say something "contraversial" every thirty seconds. But you certainly seem adamant about giving the impression you are tough. Who are you trying to convince? You know it's not working on me. It's already worked on the audience. So maybe... you're still trying to convince yourself? Maybe deep down you know that as the Big Mouth Champion, you earned that title through words alone. And those words are really empty when it comes down to skill against skill. I know you'll deny it. In fact, I'm getting sick of hearing you counter everything I say with "No, you are" and thinking it's so witty. And quite frankly, all this talk of things outside of the tournament bores the heck out of me. But I listen anyway. Because while you talk about other people, I can get an even firmer grasp of who you are. And any little thing I can learn about you will work to my advantage, especially when you don't even really seem to give me a second thought. Really, why should I care if you're talking to me, or Triple J, or even FrenchFry. It's not like you can back any of it up. It's all just empty words with you. And those words really don't matter. Sticks and stones, man. Sticks and stones.
Above Average Man steps into the light, passing out from under the cloud of polution that makes up the bad side of Baltimore. The factories give way to homes. Not in the best of care, but homes none the less. Homes with families inside. And people who care. At the end of the street, a crowd can be seen gathering. Above Average Man pays them no heed, as he walks onwards, approaching them slowly. But it's not them that he approaches, it just so happens they stand between him and his final destination as the Last Man Standing. Above Average Man shuffles down the street, his image reflected in the windows of the basement apartments that are rented out by the very poorest of people. Well, not the absolute poorest. Passing by an alley, Above Average Man sees a couple in their mid-twenties with a small child in the mother's arms. Along the side of the building, a tan station wagon which they call home. There is the poorest. Yet still, at least they have each other. Above Average Man breaks his gaze from the end of the street follows them with his eyes. The mother breast feeds her infant. The father picks through a battered, tin trash can. Above Average Man turns his head away. Though he does the same things, he doesn't have to watch the one he loves suffer along side him. That is truely the sadest spectacle. Yet, if you asked them, they would say that they are happier than he. Because at least they are not alone. Above Average Man marches on.
Above Average Man: And now, Eldar, you want to question my credentials. You want to ignore the World E-fed Hall of Fame, which encompasses your FWF along with every other federation. Fine. You don't have to respect what I've done. I won the three on one that you said was impossable. No, I didn't outwrestle them. I out-thought them. It was just a matter of putting one of them in harm's way any time I was in danger. I let them beat each other senseless, while they were in an angry haze against me. When you're angry, you're not at your best. You let your emotions get the better of you. You make mistakes. You say that even you couldn't beat three men, but that's because you don't think. When you're in the ring, you just act. Hit until it stops moving, then kick him while he's down. What a great strategy. Much like your out of the ring strategy. Swear until he stops listening, then make fun of his name. I can see the years of experience just glowing off of you. No forethought. No planning. Just action. I'm amazed that that kind of stupidity has brought you to the top, but it has. And even though I think very lowly of yourself and your tactics, hey, if it works, use it. To each his own. Maybe being a mindless thug can get you to the top. Maybe lumping all your opponents into a generic catagory is the way to success. Yeah. And maybe I'll walk to the ring, then drop dead with liver cancer. The world's full of maybes. And I'm too focused on the present to worry about them. I concentrate on you, and on our match. Anything else, well, I'll cross that road when I get there.
The sod has spoken.
Above Average Man reaches the crows of people. Turning the corner, he can see that they are the end of a line which stretches several blocks long. A line to the Last Man Standing arena. A line to the ultimate prize. Above Average Man walks through the line, wading through the sea of Eldar Markovitch t-shirts and signs. Had he not been wearing his Titan Bahadur shirt, he may have been recognized. And probably beaten up too. Above Average Man stares ahead, knowing fully that the odds are stacked against him. He is on FWF turf, and he is just one man standing against a nation. Above Average Man slips out of the line, stepping into a back alley. Bypassing a ticket scalper, Above Average Man circles round to the back and stands outside of the arena door where the wrestlers will be entering. He pauses there for a moment, leaning against the wall beside the door. Taking out his final cigarette, the "lucky" one that gets turned upside-down at the start of every fresh pack, Above Average Man takes a moment to relax, looking at the camera.
Above Average Man: The time is at hand. It's time for me to cash in the chips, and see if all my preparation was good enough. It's time for me to see if your words are more important than my actions, my sacrifices. Because really, that's what it's coming down to. All my thought and work and preparation, against your self-proclaimed Broken Record ramblings. It's words. Without a purpose, they don't amount to anything. They're just words. And you know what they say.
Sticks and stones, man. Sticks and stones.
The camera slowly pulls back as Above Average Man takes in the second drag from his cigarette. Exhaling it through his nose, he shuts his eyes in quiet relaxation, blocking out the rest of the world. He leans there against the concrete wall, completely still. The camera pulls back to a body shot of his frozen body, then slowly fades to black.
The camera opens on a dimly lit gravel stretch somewhere in southern Iowa. As the camera pans up, the battered man is seen standing in a driveway. The state of his body speaks volumes, but the small trophey at his feet speaks even more. The black bandana tied tightly around his forehead slows the bleeding, so the chuke berry red blood only gathers on his brow and hangs above his chest. His hair, caked with the blotted blood of a Sunday in Hell, hangs stiffly in front of his face. He looks at the trophey for a moment, then stumbles forward to lean against a battered Mercury Capri. Inside the home, the lights are on, but no one notices the lone man standing in the driveway. He sits there for a moment, looking off towards the horizon.
Bryan Barnes: Well, here I am. It's like I've finally reached my destination. My destiny. Jenny. God, I've wanted to be with her for so long. And now... I'm here. And I'm worthy. No more fruitless Above Average Man flitting around the country, walking from state to state and living out of garbage cans. I've got something more precious to me than anything. I've got Jenny. She finally wants me back, and I won't disappoint her. I'm the Last Man Standing. I topped one hundred twenty-seven men to earn this trophey. You might say, I went to the fair, bought some darts, and won her one hell of a prize. Yes, it's time. It's finally time my life started turning around. It's time things went right. It's time that I let myself care about something.
Bryan turns away from the car, lifting the trophey up in his right hand, and limps his battered frame over towards the door. It's late at night, but he doesn't seem to care. The makes his way up the steps, making no effort to conceal his approach. This is his moment. Stepping onto the landing, his knee nearly gives out. He wobbles for a moment, placing his hand on the banister, and stares at the door in complete silence.
Bryan Barnes: And I thought there was tension when I pinned Eldar. The pressure's on now. These are the three most important seconds of my life. [to himself] Come on, Bryan. Don't blow it.
The sound of the doorbell seems to echoe on for miles as it interupts the dead stillness of the night. The seconds tick by like hours. One. Two. Three. There is a grinding creak as the door opens and a beautiful brunette woman of nineteen stands behind the chain lock, looking out at Bryan. Bryan looks up at her, compassion returning to his cold, pained eyes. The girl, nearly frantically, undoes the chain lock and flings open the door, stepping through to stand face to face with Bryan. He looks up at her, tears in his eyes.
Bryan Barnes: Jenny...
Bryan collapses backwards and she lunges to grab him, falling to the porch with him and cradling his battered body in her arms. Somehow, her touch makes him feel whole again, conciousness returning the instant their skins meet. He looks up into her eyes, struggling to raise the Last Man Standing trophey.
Bryan Barnes: Jenny, I'm back. I'm sorry. I love you. I did it all for you.
Jenny looks down at him, a mixture of confusion and compassion in her eyes. She seems almost ready to ask him what happened, before her gaze falls upon the Last Man Standing trophey. She feels sick to her stomach, knowing that all this time the man everyone had been talking about was her own Bryan. Why hadn't she watched him. Why hadn't she known. Why hadn't she cared. Jenny takes the trophey from his weak fingers, setting it off to the side, and looks down to him with a smile.
Bryan Barnes: I did it all for you, Jenny. I'm back. Things can be the same again. I'm something now. I finally made something of my life.
Bryan's eyes role back in his head, while he loses consciousness for good. Jenny sets him down carefully, rushing back to the door and yelling inside.
Jenny: Rusty, come quick! An old friend of mine is here, and he's hurt. Get him to the sofa.
An attractive looking blonde man with an ear-ring steps through the door, kicking the Last Man Standing trophey aside and lifting Bryan up in his arms. Bryan's limp body hangs from the man's powerful frame as he steps back inside, bringing Bryan out of camera view.
Jenny: Thanks Rusty. I love you.
fade to black